Charles Thomas Smith
Serial No. 5183
3rd Battalion & 55th Battalion
Charles Thomas Smith - Information
Charles was born in Minto about 1894. When he was older, he resided in Mascot, finding work as a labourer. He then decided to enlist in the AIF, signing up in Holsworthy on the 5th of October 1915. Becoming a Private with the 16th Reinforcements, 3rd Battalion, in early March, Charles was then sent overseas. He boarded the SS Makarini, which departed Sydney on the 1st of April 1916.
Charles landed in Suez, Egypt in early May, and joined the 3rd Battalion at Tel-el-Kebir. A few weeks later, he was transferred to the 55th Battalion. In late June, he left Alexandria for Marseilles in France, and headed to the 5th Australian Division Base Depot. In August, he joined the 55th Battalion in the lines. As the weather turned bitterly cold towards the end of the year, Charles' health began to decline. In November, he reported to hospital in Rouen with myalgia. He was then invalided to England to the 2nd Southern General Hospital. After some rest, he recovered; however, his return to duty was delayed by military infractions and outbreaks of venereal disease. In early February 1917, he was charged for using a false document in London. He was brought before a Court Martial and sentenced to 14 days confinement. On his way to detention, he reported to Bulford Hospital for VD treatment on the 12th of February. He returned to France in late May, and for a week in June, was detached for duty with the 14th Brigade Headquarters. The 55th Battalion then participated in assaults during the Third Battle of Ypres in Belgium. Despite heavy losses, they successfully attacked the Germans at Polygon Wood. He was then charged for leaving his billet after 9pm while on active service in late November. After enduring another harsh winter, Charles was wounded in action. He was caught in a gas attack on the 12th of March 1918. He returned to his unit on the 25th of March in time to face the German Spring Offensive. Breaking through the lines, the Australian Corps was brought in to plug the gaps developing along the British front. The 55th were placed on the flank of Villers-Bretonneux, encountering bitter fighting, as Ludendorff threw everything at them to seize the rail junction of Amiens. However, after this Charles disappeared and remained unaccounted for. On the 3rd of June, a Court of Enquiry was conducted into his whereabouts. The many hardships he endured, and fear of the battlefield had proved too much. He was apprehended on the 4th of August, and brought before a General Court Martial on the 13th of September. He was charged with going AWL from the reserve line while on active service from 8pm on the 18th of April until he surrendered. He was found guilty and sentenced to 4 years penal servitude (with a recommendation for mercy). The sentence was later commuted to 6 months at hard labour. While he was in prison, the war ended. In early February 1919, his sentence was remitted. The same day, he boarded the HMAT Ascanius bound for Australia, and was soon discharged from military service.